Mike + the Mechanics (sometimes stylized as M1ke + The Mechan1c5) are an English pop/rock supergroup formed in 1985 as a side project of Mike Rutherford, the bassist and one of the founding members of the band Genesis. The band is known for their hit singles "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)", "All I Need Is a Miracle", "Taken In", "Over My Shoulder", and "The Living Years".
Initially, the band included Rutherford, vocalists Paul Carrack and Paul Young, keyboardist Adrian Lee and drummer Peter Van Hooke. Carrack was generally assigned to ballads and more pop-oriented numbers, while Young handled the band's heavier work. After a successful decade, Lee and Van Hooke dropped out in 1995, and were not replaced. Following Young's death in 2000, Carrack became the band's sole lead vocalist until 2004 when the band (essentially a duo at this point) went on hiatus, with Rutherford and Carrack both later saying the band had "run its course". The band identity was revived in 2010, consisting of Rutherford and a completely new set of musicians, including new vocalists Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar.
Formation and commercial breakthrough
During hiatuses from Genesis, Mike Rutherford had been pursuing a solo career, releasing Smallcreep's Day in 1980 and Acting Very Strange in 1982. However, he found the process of recording a solo album excessively difficult, and the results artistically unsatisfying. He recalled, "I had a revelation, too, in this time period... that I'm not complete on my own. ...I'm much more creative and inspired when there are other people around me and I'm bouncing ideas off." However, he still felt that working only with Genesis would leave him unfulfilled, and to satisfy both his desire to create music outside the format of Genesis and his desire to collaborate with other musicians, he set about forming his own band.
Rutherford had already started a songwriting partnership with Scottish singer/writer/composer B. A. Robertson, and for the band's self-titled debut album he enlisted the services of producer Christopher Neil. Besides producing, Neil co-wrote most of the songs, selected the material for inclusion, and performed backing vocals. He would continue to play a key role in the band's albums for their first decade of existence.
Similarly to Steely Dan, in the studio Mike + the Mechanics were not a tight-knit band but a vehicle for the songwriting of Rutherford, Robertson, and Neil, and session keyboardists, drummers, guitarists, and even lead vocalists often performed on the songs in place of the official band members. Indeed, the line-up of Mike + the Mechanics only came together over the course of recording their first album; Paul Young, who was recommended for the group by Neil and his manager, said that by the time he joined, all the backing tracks for the album had been recorded.
Rutherford was more than satisfied with the resulting album and decided to continue the band indefinitely, rather than leaving it as a one-off project. When the album was released in 1985, his decision was further bolstered by its immense commercial success. While Rutherford's solo albums had been moderately successful, he had never managed a Top 40 hit (except in Canada, where "Maxine" from Acting Very Strange snuck in at No. 39); Mike + the Mechanics scored three of them, including two US Top 10s, "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)", "All I Need is a Miracle" and an additional #32 hit with "Taken In". "Silent Running" was featured in the movie On Dangerous Ground, released in North American cinemas in 1986 as Choke Canyon.
The single "The Living Years" (US#1, UK#2) became the band's biggest hit, and featured on the band's second album Living Years. The song was written by Rutherford and Robertson after both of their fathers had recently died, but the lyrics were written solely by Robertson and centered on the unresolved dissension between Robertson and his father. The song was sung by Carrack, who also had an emotional attachment to the song having lost his own father when he was only eleven years old. The album also featured the song "Nobody's Perfect", which was sung by Young and which had received considerable airtime as the music to a successful television advertising campaign for Tennent's bitter.
At this point Carrack began to take a much larger role in the band, joining their stable of songwriters and adding keyboards to his repertoire. The group's third album, Word of Mouth, followed in 1991. It was less successful than its predecessors, particularly in the US, but scored another trio of charting singles in the UK, with the lead single becoming one of their most popular songs yet.
Their fourth album, Beggar on a Beach of Gold, did not appear until 1995. When it did, however, it was met with critical acclaim and yielded both a UK top 40 hit in the title track, and a number 12 hit in "Over My Shoulder". The latter, which was their first hit to be co-written by Carrack, became arguably their most aired song on British radio.
Their run of successes was capped with 1996's Hits, which compiled most of their hit singles with a new reworking of "All I Need is a Miracle" that hit number 27 in the UK, a higher placing than that of the original version. The album was certified platinum in the UK within two months of its release.
In 1995, the band began to fall apart: Adrian Lee and Peter Van Hooke left (before and after Beggar on a Beach of Gold, respectively), and Christopher Neil's long tenure as songwriter/producer for the group ended. However, Rutherford opted to continue Mike + the Mechanics as a singer/songwriter trio. The group's fifth studio album was released in 1999, Mike & The Mechanics. It is generally known as M6, the Hits album being their fifth release. As the band no longer had a distribution deal with an American record label, M6 was available to the American market as an import only. Moreover, its only hit, "Now That You've Gone", barely cracked the UK Top 40.
Another blow struck the following year: On 15 July 2000, Paul Young died from a heart attack. The band regrouped in 2004 as "Mike + The Mechanics featuring Paul Carrack". As implied by the new name, Carrack played a larger role than before, performing all the band's lead vocals and keyboards and co-writing all the songs. They released the album Rewired, which became their first album to lack a hit. Van Hooke briefly worked with the band again during this time, not as an official member but as a co-producer of Rewired. He also performed drums and percussion on the album and its tour.
Shortly after, Carrack became too involved with solo work to devote time to the group. In a 2007 interview Rutherford stated that Mike + The Mechanics had "run its course."
Over several months of 2009 and 2010, Rutherford formed a new band. Since there was no hope of the original group ever reforming, he opted to again use the Mike + the Mechanics name. In a December 2009 interview, Rutherford stated that "I'm actually doing a new Mike and the Mechanics album. I kind of thought I had put it to bed, but I still enjoy songwriting. Working with a few new co-writers and a couple of new faces for the band. Paul Carrack is doing some solo stuff, so we have a guy called Andrew Roachford, an R&B kind of singer. It's a little different, but the soul seems to be there."
A new album, The Road, and the 'Hit the Road Tour 2011' were announced in November 2010. The album was released in April 2011 featured both Roachford and Tim Howar on vocals, Luke Juby on keyboards, Gary Wallis on drums, and Anthony Drennan on guitar and bass. Though it became the first album not to feature B.A. Robertson as a co-writer, the album also marked the return of Christopher Neil as songwriter/producer. The tour included performances across the UK, Germany, and various other European cities.
This incarnation of the band continues to tour.